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Pensions and USS

In recent times, changes to pensions – and the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) – have been to the fore of national UCU negotiating and local branch activity.  USS is the principal pension scheme provided by the University of Bristol and other HE-associated institutions for many of their employees.

Bristol UCU keeps you up-to-date with key updates, information for members and general USS and UCU resources.  USS and UCU are now anticipating the 2017 valuation and UCU is continuing to challenge the actuarial valuation methodology.

23 July 2016. If you pay, or wish to pay, money puchase additional voluntary contributions (MPAVCs) into Prudential or the new USS defined contribution section (called the USS Investment Builder) then be sure to read Do you have, or want, a MPAVC? on the 2016 CHANGES tab.

18 February 2016. Pensions and National Insurance hikes to hit academics hard. Extra contributions are likely to cost many university staff more than £1,000 a year. (THES, 18/02/2016).

30 January 2016. Members with AVC contracts will be aware of the significant changes due to come into effect later this year in April. Since AVC agreements are individual contracts between a USS member and the trustee, there may be circumstances in which a member may wish to bring a complaint against the trustee. UCU has prepared guidance on how to do so here.

9 December 2016. Volunteer sought to participate in a joint national USS forum. If you have relevant expertise or know anyone who may be available, please let ucu-office@bristol.ac.uk know. Further details will follow as we get them. See the Valuation Campaign tab.

November 2015. Following its meeting in October, the Branch has written to the Vice-Chancellor asking for the creation of a joint working party to look at valuation methodologies. Letter and motion (PDF, 294Kb).

September 2015. USS have launched their new website, USS for the future, with detailed information and updates about the 2016 changes

July 2015. The USS Trustee has agreed the changes to be made to USS benefits to be introduced from April 2016.

With worrying reports of an estimated future deficit despite recent reforms such as the end of Final Salary, UCU is currently challenging once again how the USS is being valued.

During the recent USS dispute, UCU characterised the USS’s approach  to valuation and de-risking as ‘recklessly prudent’ and a number of employing institutions and academic experts expressed significant reservations about the approach of the USS Trustee.

The core objective now is to persuade employers locally to influence their Universities UK  representatives nationally that a change in valuation methodology will more accurately reflect the  financial state of the scheme – and is right for members, institutions and the scheme itself.

Local developments

At the Branch General Meeting on Wednesday 21 October a Branch Motion and letter to the University (PDF, 294KB)(based on a model  motion proposed by national office) was passed and calls on us locally to:

  • raise the scheme funding approach at our Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee,  Senate, Council, Faculty, School and Divisional meetings
  • write to the University to join with UCU in reviewing the USS funding methodology
  • create a joint working group with management, UCU and relevant colleagues to develop a  local response to the USS board.

Help sought from University staff

Academic and professional staff with relevant expertise (whether or not they are members of UCU) are warmly invited to join the University Pensions Working Group that we are seeking to set up. We have also been asked to nominate possible representatives on a national USS Joint Forum. If you are interested, or know somebody who might be, please let ucu-office@bristol.ac.uk know.


More problems for USS ahead?

Critiques of the current USS valuation methodology:

General critiques of pension valuation methodologies:

USS triennial valuation 2014:

The links in this section are largely technical and concern the details of the valuation methodology adopted by USS and commentary on this by Universities UK (UUK) and UCU. Although a few details changed as the result of the consultation, these papers are the most comprehensive overview of the USS case and some of the ways in which it has been criticised by representatives of stakeholders:

Members will be aware of the impending changes to USS pensions, in particular: the end of Final Salary accrual from1 April 2016; replaced by Career Revalued Benefits (CRB) for all members; and a new Defined Contribution (DC) section to USS.

Details of the changes are available on a new USS website called USS for the future.

The changes will be introduced in two phases:

1 April 2016: the existing final salary pension arrangements will come to an end and all members will move into a revised career revalued benefits (CRB) section. Both employer and member contributions will increase from this date.
1 October 2016: the new defined contribution (DC) section will be introduced

These are complex and significant changes and it is very important that members are attentive to announcements and meet deadlines that may affect you. Our Pension team has prepared a summary of key points and dates to bear in mind, in particular regarding AVCs and Transfers-In.

Do you have, or want, a MPAVC?

Currently, defined contribution (DC) money purchase additional voluntary contributions (MPAVCs) are administered on behalf of USS by Prudential.

The Prudential MPAVC arrangement will close from 30 September 2016 (except as described below) and it will be replaced by the new DC section of USS, called the USS Investment Builder.

If you wish to pay DC AVCs from your October pay, you will need to register online by the end of July at www.uss.co.uk/myuss.  There you can opt to pay an additional 1% of your salary into USS and receive a 1% matched contribution from the University.  You can also elect to pay more than 1% (although it won’t be matched) and you can choose and manage your investment funds online.

Contributions to Prudential will cease from September and funds already built up will be transferred over to USS during 2017, with just two exceptions:

  • If you have invested in the Prudential With-Profits fund, you may be eligible to continue paying contributions into that fund (but not into Prudential’s other unit trust funds). You can check which funds you have by logging in to https://www.pruretire.co.uk/.
  • If you currently pay life assurance premiums as part of your MPAVC arrangement, these will continue unless you decide otherwise.

USS should have written to you in June if these exceptions apply to you.  If you are in any doubt you should carefully read this factsheet (PDF, 155 Kb).

Remember, full details and timelines of all changes to USS can be found at USS for the future.

Important note on USS additional voluntary contributions (AVCs)
Members with AVC contracts will be aware of the significant changes due to come into effect later this year in April. Since AVC agreements are individual contracts between a USS member and the trustee, there may be circumstances in which a member may wish to bring a complaint against the trustee. UCU has prepared guidance on how to do so here.

Further information

USS web site has information about:

UCU web site has information about:

Changes to National Insurance, State Pension and Second State Pension

The Government has announced changes to the State Pension and Second State Pension from April 2016:

From April 2016, members will pay more national insurance as, like other schemes, USS will lose its “contracting-out” status leading to members paying 1.4% more National Insurance on earnings between £5,500 and £40,000.